Francis Baker’s flair as a thief is unmatched when it comes to his skill at remaining undetected, whether as a pickpocket or when committing a burglary. The suspense builds when he falls into the clutches of criminals who wish to make use of his abilities. They get more than they bargained for when he escapes and turns the tables on them. A continent away, he attempts to become an honest law-abiding citizen, and escape the notice of those searching for him. Unfortunately he is brought into violent conflict with the same crooks from before. This time, escape isn’t an option. Can Francis remove the threat on not only his life but to those he loves, or will his enemies prevail?
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 2 – PG
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
While attending college, four of us banded together and made a game out of being a thief, planning “jobs” to local businesses in exhausting detail. This fantasy game suddenly came to a screeching halt when one of our team actually pulled one of our planned jobs and disappeared, never to be seen again. Forty years later the thief bug bit again, but this time I turned my efforts into writing novels about a thief named Baker.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
According to my friends, it's a depiction of myself. Yes I was in the military and was pretty good at self defense (fast runner), but fortunately I never did try to pull any jobs – that I'd admit to…
How did people manage to live in South Carolina in August? God, it was humid. I hefted two cases of champagne from the back of the truck. Sweat ran into my eyes, and soaked the over-sized uniform I’d borrowed fifteen minutes ago. I picked up my pace toward the rear entrance of the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. It was easy to mix in with the stream of workers who moved in and out.
A hand on my arm caused me to flinch and almost drop the cases of booze. A large security guard loomed beside me. Oh, God, what’d I do wrong? “Hey, the bubbly goes in the other door, man. You’ll have to go all the way around the inside wall if you go this way.”
My knees threatened to give out, the relief was so overwhelming. “Uh – other door?” I gave my best impression of a slack-jawed idiot while I looked around.
“Yeah, that one over there. All the booze and food to the left, the rest of the junk to the right.” He glanced at the uniform I’d just stolen from one of the vans parked behind us and shook his head, a frown building. “Couldn’t you get a size to fit? That thing looks like a tent on you.”
I gave him a vacant look. “Last one they had.” My legs carried me inside the building and away from him fast as I dared to go. He looked after me, the cogs of his size two brain visibly clicking over whether to be suspicious or not. Crap. This wasn’t working out like I’d thought. Even the flashlight cop was antsy.
I passed through the door and turned left, set the cases down with a sigh of relief and snagged two bottles of champagne for a cover. I hustled on, through the thickening crowd. Occasionally I filled an empty glass, trying to look busy. A casual glance over my shoulder confirmed the same huge guard pushing through the crowd, eyes searching. My two front men, Tony and Marty, had researched and planned this heist for a month. Was I going to blow it from the opening bell?
I kept moving, and tried to put layers of flesh between us. Each year during the summer, four thousand golfers descended on Myrtle Beach to take part in a huge golf tournament, and four nights of drunken revelry at the Convention Center.
I felt a tap on my shoulder, turned around and started salivating at the sight of a beautiful woman giving me the heavy eye.
“My glass is empty,” she said. A smile crinkled her nose in an interesting manner. I hastened to fill the proffered glass. A sensation of heat radiated from the woman, causing me to step closer. Full lips, low neckline, somewhat older than me, but what a gorgeous body. Sloshed to the gills.
She looked around the room, drawing my eyes with hers. “Seen any good looking guys around here?” Her eyes raked me from head to foot. “Maybe someone with dark blue eyes, curly brown hair…”
Oh, man. She was coming on to me. I was such a sucker for brunettes. My eyes
couldn’t help themselves; straight to her cleavage like a magnet.
My lips curled into a smile. “Not at the moment, m’lady. With your beauty it’s but a moment before they’ll surround you.”
Pleased surprise flashed across her face, followed by the look of a hungry predator. She stepped closer. “Is that so? Tell me more.” Chills ran down my back. I struggled back to awareness of where I was and what I was supposed to be doing.
“Er, excuse me, ma’am. Gotta get to work.” I almost ran in my haste to get away. So beautiful. Don’t look back. You’re on a job. A perfect way to screw up–mixing business and pleasure. Focus, you idiot!
I gravitated towards the main display cabinets, and squeezed past the crush of people around them. My eyes were drawn to the central case with, among other things, its large crystal trophy, shaped like a goblet. Tomorrow night, the last night of the event, the prize would go to the hotshot golfer who got the lowest gross score. Two uniformed guards orbited around the immediate area to make sure no one did more than look.
I managed to tear my eyes off the goodies in the case, and eased my way through the crowd to the special storage room, my main target. A scan of the crowd–Damn! The same guard again. Our eyes made contact, and he threaded his way towards me. I bustled off, looking official and busy. Twenty minutes went by before I managed to assure myself the guard had lost interest. Half-an-hour to go. I eased through the swarms of people and marveled at the growing roar of the crowds that surged around the large building. The more these folks drank, the louder they got.
With a few gentle nudges and sidesteps I made my way towards the special storage room. Again I was brought up short. The same guard stood next to the room of interest, with two other security types. A casual turn and I steered to the side, in an attempt to blend in. I bumped into one of the smaller display cases and almost knocked it over before I could grab it. As I steadied the container, inspiration struck. I hastened off with a definite goal in mind, burrowing deeper into the mass of sweating, shouting humanity.
Minutes later I arrived at the middle of the conference center, where several tall display cases held the history of what golfers used to wear up to present day. The tallest case, a little over six feet high and made of high impact plastic, was perfect. Even better, a large waste can stood close by. I made a show of trying to heft the can, and struggled with its weight while I took a couple of steps back, directly into the display case. An extra little shove with my shoulder toppled it into the next one, with me sprawled alongside both. The crash of impact silenced the crowd. My scream of pain echoed through the building.
The crowd surged forward and I darted into its maw, allowing me to escape the scene in a discreet manner. Security men, including the three in front of the special storage area, hurried from several directions to check out the scene of bedlam. While attention focused on the confusion I’d just left, I slipped into the now vacant room. Tables lined its walls. Twenty by thirty feet in size, the hurricane shelter for the convention center was a cube of reinforced concrete. It made a handy storage room when you wanted to lock something in a secure place.
However, all rooms need a ventilation system, even this one. It was small and cramped but I was slim enough to fit, according to the measurements on the blueprints supplied by my front men. The room in question shared a vent with the one next door, where all the extra chairs and tables were stored. Best of all I’d only have to crawl ten feet. The plan would work if I could unfasten the cover from inside this room. Which I proceeded to do, after climbing on a table to reach it. While I clambered down, the door opened. I stumbled and barely recovered, fear of discovery making my legs rubbery. The delectable woman I’d just drooled over weaved inside.
She wobbled over to me. “What are you doing?”
“Just, uh, ensuring all the tablecloths are straight, ma’am.”
She was back to her smoky look. “This is the wrong room to straighten things out in, my dear. And I’m not a ma’am, I’m Linda” She lurched into me–drunk as a skunk–and pulled me towards the door. “C’mon, let’s count tables and chairs in the room next door. Lots more privacy there.”
I allowed myself to be led, trying to keep my eyes from her deep cleavage. O’God, how was I going to be able to–a hand clamped onto my shoulder.
“Where d’you think you’re goin’?” The security agent leered at me, a triumphant look on his face.
“Me? I was just helping this lady find her way…”
“Is there a problem, Charlie?” asked the lady in question.
Charlie flinched and moved back a step. “Oh, sorry, missus Walters.”
She gave Charlie a head-to-foot once over, which caused him to blush. “Don’t worry, Charlie, I’ll handle him. You just go on about your business, okay? And remember, you never saw us.”
“Yeah, sure, missus Walters,” Charlie said, moving away. “I’ll–I’ll just go check the parking lots again.” He left at a fast pace. I sagged in relief. Jeez, maybe the bad luck had run its course.
Linda chuckled. “Poor Charlie. I think I spoiled his image of the boss’s wife when my bikini top came off at a party he worked last month.”
I took her arm to steer her towards the room next door. “Why’s that?”
“I had’m fasten it up. He got kinda nervous and sweaty, since I faced him while he did it. ‘Specially since my hubby watched.”
I tried the door, but it was locked. I was just palming a lockpick to take care of the minor problem when she handed me a key. “This’ll open all the doors in this place, sweetheart. Be sure to give it back. My husband might get upset if he knew I had it.”
“Who’s your husband?” I asked.
“Mister high and mighty Samuel Walters, a member of the committee that puts on this shebang,” she said, and swayed into me while I tried to put the key in the lock. “May he rot in hell, the goddamned fairy!”
I unlocked the door, and handed the key back. With a broad smile, she dropped it down the front of her dress, a challenging look on her face. “Oh, my. I seem to have dropped it. I’m afraid you’re going to have to retrieve it when we lock up. Do you mind?”
My hands traveled halfway to her breasts before I stopped. Focus…
Linda opened the door, pulled me through and closed it behind us. She leaned into me and wrapped her arms around my waist. “My, you’ve got some solid muscle there.” Her fingers wandered over my back, and to my ears. God, that felt good. Her hands continued to roam, and outlined the form-fitting pack under my coat.
“What’s this, darling? A new way to carry a purse?” She unbuttoned my coat, helping me shrug out of it. “C’mon, take that damn purse off, or whatever it is, and get a bit more comfy.” I automatically latched onto her ass while she pulled me into a kiss. Even her tongue was hot!
“Mmm, that feels good. Le’me…” She drooped into my arms, eyes crossed. Oh, man, what a time for her to pass out. And what a time to lose my focus, right in the middle of a heist.
With a mixture of regret and relief, I deposited her on the sofa next to the doorway. Now I could go ahead with the job, and have a perfect cover story. I took a deep breath, tried to achieve a semblance of calm, and removed the rest of the uniform. Underneath was a skin tight outfit made from synthetics and silk, ideal for sliding through confined spaces.
Doors banged open in the next room. All the display cabinets were being moved into the room, at least those with rare and expensive items. But only one interested me. Ten minutes later the doors shut, and the sound of chains being wrapped around the door handles cued me to start.
I stood on a chair and removed the vent cover. A quiet groan made me freeze. I turned my head and watched the luscious Mrs. Walters roll onto her back, and begin to snore. Time to move. One last check to ensure my pack was snug, and I pulled myself into the vent.
It took two minutes to crawl the short distance to the next opening, as silence was paramount. Two armed guards were just a few feet away, on the other side of the locked doors of the room I headed for.
Finally I was able to push the grillwork aside and lower myself into the next room. A quick glance around to ensure no surprises waited, and I pulled off my pack. Inside was a square plastic box, just thick enough to hold the merchandise I’d come for. It was also filled with the fakes I would leave behind. I moved towards the large display case that had been rolled into the middle of the room. The murmur of the guards on the other side of the double doors underlined my need for absolute silence.
Every step towards the cabinet caused my breathing to increase. My eyes caressed the spray of loose diamonds-one hundred of them-displayed on a black felt cloth that surrounded the
crystal trophy. Three pyramidal stacks, each with four golf balls, golden golf balls, were interspersed on the same cloth. The overall effect was inspiring. At least it inspired me, just not the way they were meant to.
I dug out a small leather wallet, removed a circular key and got to work on the two Dernier cabinet locks. They were purported to be the hardest to open in the industry, unless you had access to one of their master keys. Alfy, a fourth member of my team and also my landlord, was able to procure one.
Within minutes I’d exchanged the diamonds and golf balls. The fake balls, made of lead, had been a bitch to paint. I’d used real gold paint, and it wanted to glob rather than dry in a smooth cover over the balls. I put the diamonds, three to five carats each, in the well padded box to keep them from rattling. The golf balls nestled in the specially shaped cocoons I’d built for them in the same box. It would be several days, if not weeks, before the switch was discovered.
As I crept towards the vent and made my escape, I fervently prayed Marty and Tony didn’t find out what a klutz I’d been on this job. Thank God for Lady Luck! May she always shine.
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